Venugopal joins duty, health officials perplexed

May 9th, 2008 - 8:37 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Anbumani Ramadoss

New Delhi, May 9, (IANS) Even as P. Venugopal resumed duty as director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Friday, health ministry officials said they are still “awaiting” a clear direction from the Supreme Court about who is to head one of Asia’s largest referral hospitals. The confusion started after the apex court, which Thursday ordered the central government to reinstate Venugopal and declared AIIMS Amendment Act “malafide and unconstitutional”, said it will give its detailed verdict Monday.

While Venugopal resumed his seat hours after the verdict, acting Director T.D. Dogra, appointed by Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, said he is “just a senior professor”.

“I am a senior professor, lying on bed. I am not well,” a seemingly dejected Dogra told IANS.

A jubilant Venugopal came to his old office Friday and discussed with his colleagues about developments that had taken place since he was summarily removed in November 2007.

Venugopal, 66, was ousted after a legislation was passed in the parliament limiting the tenure of the director to a maximum of five years or till he reaches the retirement age of 65. After it got a presidential assent last year, the health minister sacked Venugopal as AIIMS director.

“The court has clearly said that Venugopal is a director and there is no need for any direction from the health minister. He started his normal work and took a round of the campus,” said a senior faculty member.

The health ministry officials were huddled together to find a solution to the embarrassing situation. “The court has to tell us who is the director of AIIMS. We are waiting for the detailed verdict,” said a flustered ministry official.

He said Venugopal should have waited for the detailed order and a ministry communication before resuming work at the hospital that receives an estimated 8,000 patients every day.

While the supporters of the eminent cardiologist are celebrating, those close to the health minister are keeping a wary eye on the situation.

Venugopal was appointed director in July 2003 and his tenure ends July 2, 2008.

Ramadoss, who is also AIIMS president, has been involved in a long running turf war with Venugopal, which escalated during the anti-quota protest in 2006.

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